As if President Marcos Jr.’s challenges in making his government work were not enough, Migrant Worker Secretary Susana “Toots” Ople seems to be having difficulty having a former cabinet secretary as a subordinate.
So as the whole world totters in suspense should the United States pivot its warmongering from Ukraine to Asia, we have been distracted from news almost six months ago that due to a surprising increase in documentation fees, labor market for Overseas Filipino Workers in Taiwan had to temporarily stop processing of job orders for Philippine-licensed agencies deploying workers.
In a memorandum by a group of Taiwanese Manpower Principals procuring job orders from hundreds of Taiwan factories addressed to the members of Taiwan Employment Services Institute Association (TESIA), the new fees per document will be NT1,435, so from the previous NT1,370 for a set of documents, it will now be NT5740 which will amount to about P10,000.
TESIA members are protesting the imposition of unwarranted new and exorbitant accreditation and verification fees by a unilateral action of the new managing director of Manila Economic and Cultural Offices (MECO) former Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.
The new fees caught flat-footed TESIA members as there have been no previous consultations made with MECO and the three POLOs assigned to Taiwan and the local agencies in Manila’s PILMAT (Philippines Manpower Agencies Accredited to Taiwan).
PILMAT president Aida Gerodias expressed apprehension that the fees will discourage Taiwan brokers from funneling OFWs to Taiwan and instead to competitor countries Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand whose fees are lower than the MECO fees.
In a letter to DMW Secretary Ople prominent DOLE lawyer Atty. Francis De Guzman pointed out that MECO has no authority to raise fees, as this power and function is vested on her as the Secretary.
Atty. De Guzman cited 1. Section 15, Part A. Title ll of DOLE Administrative Order No. 168, Series of 2013, also known as the Manual of Operations, Policies and Guidelines for the Philippine Overseas Labor Office provisions of the manual which refer to “the Secretary”.
Based on the assumption of the DMW Secretary of the erstwhile powers of the Labor Secretary before the enactment of the new cabinet department, such by sheer commonsense refers only to Secretary Ople.
Sadly, Bello has run amuck again, back to his modus of usurping and abusing governmental powers.
On November 2019, in my capacity as chief convenor for Solidarity and Sovereignty, I filed at the Office of the Ombudsman, a compendium of at least 10 graft and corruption cases against then Department of Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III and three other labor officials.
Two years before that in 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte fired the chairman of the Presidential Commission on Urban Poor Terry Ridon for making at least seven (7) trips abroad and Maritime Authority Administrator Marcial Quirico Amaro for making 24 trips outside the country.
With this as precedence, I just got fed up with investigations by public officials of Silvestre Bello III and those who in one way or another, has benefitted from his corrupt activities, and so I stepped up to the plate to initiate their prosecution of the cases at the appropriate venue provided by law.
I charged Bello for graft and corruption and malfeasance for his abuse of power in making at least 40 travels abroad and causing the government to spend on these trips amounting at least P4 million pesos.
He also enumerated three specific instances when the labor secretary authorized excessive travels for other labor officials.
Atty. Ria Corazon who made twelve (12) trips from April 29, 2018 to October 2, 2019. Director Noel Binag had eight (8) travels abroad from March 31, 2018 to September 27, 2019. Jessica Gabriel Abad also went abroad six (6) times from October 14, 2017 to October 17, 2018 the complaint said.
Solidarity for Sovereignty (S4S) is an advocate for social reforms and crusaders since 2009 in exposing graft and corruption of government officials and private persons.
But it seems there is no repentance or reform when it comes to Bello.
Clearly, the power to adjust the amount of the verification fees is not lodged in/with the individual POLO or the Philippine Embassy or, in the case of Taiwan, the MECO.
A recruitment expert, Emmanuel Geslani told the press that the move to raise fees will discourage Taiwan employers and brokers to get Filipinos for jobs as the current situation now is precarious as many factories supplying parts for Foxconn has temporarily stopped the processing of job orders from local agencies sending workers to Taiwan.
Foxconn’s which produces Apple products like Iphone 14 and Ipads to cancel six million units for the Iphone 14, has already left some factories at a stand still affecting OFWs.
The increase of documentation fees to NT 5740 or close to P 10,000 pesos is causing an untimely aggravation turning off Taiwan brokers as each order for caretakers will need new accreditation fees.
Bello’s appointment to MECO already stirred some ruckus when President Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos Jr. proceeded withhis appointment despite his pending case with the Ombudsman.
It appears that the highhandedness of Bello dispensing his powers as former Secretary of Labor and Employment, as contemporary of past president Rodrigo Duterte in the Boy Scout dormitory at Arroceros, Manila, has not been modulated.
The recalcitrant septuagenarian has preempted his present superior Secretary Toots Ople, instead of helping her make the transitions from DOLE to the newly-created cabinet position DMW seamless and efficient.
The former DOLE secretary is also adding unnecessary flame to the security concerns of the President about what has been happening to the island province of mainland China.
Taiwan is hot spot
Taiwan has become a contentious issue in August of last year as the Americans provoked China to conduct a series of unprecedented, large-scale military exercises that could effectively choke off Taiwan, just hours after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the self-ruled island infuriating Beijing and triggering fears of a new crisis across the Taiwan Strait.
Almost five days of drills were set to be the largest ever around Taiwan, involving the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) air, naval, land and amphibious forces, as well long-range live-fire shooting and conventional missile test launches.
The exercises prompted Japan Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi to protest five Chinese ballistic missiles (EEZ). A map of the missiles’ trajectories showed that at least one of the weapons was believed to have flown over Taipei before landing in Japan’s EEZ — a move that would be seen as a major escalation by Beijing.
The drills concentrated on seven maritime areas — and related airspace — effectively encircling democratic Taiwan and affecting important aviation routes and international shipping lanes.
China also summoned the U.S. ambassador in Beijing, suspended exports of natural sand to the island, which are key for construction work, and halted imports from Taiwan of certain types of fruit and fish.
Beijing’s show of force drove American naval assets to skip the scene for the meantime as far as Guam as the PLA used a variety of weaponry to demonstrate the superiority of Chinese hypersonic missiles and technological advantage in the deployment of drones.
Chinese land-based electronic jammers have been successful in the last few years paralyzing navigation and communications systems of US carrier-based warplanes and forcing them to return to the carrier. The US has been quiet about this because it is still looking for solutions.
A carrier with grounded warplanes is useless in a naval war.
This has pushed the US to attempt to acquire four new sites on the Philippines to improve their prepositioning of countermeasures for monitoring and pinpointing of jammer installations, disguised as radars to better anticipate climate change and natural disasters.
An American attack on Chinese installations may trigger rapid escalation, a total Chinese response towards a full-blown battle that the US may not be ready for and that may target the EDCA bases in the Philippines.
With this sensitivity in the backdrop, Bello has instead become another problem to a solution. No way can we afford the presence of our OFWs in Taiwan to complicate amid larger issues, especially that those might involve our becoming involved in war.
Best if the President show him the pink slip and send him to face his pending corruption cases.